A unique TAFE course helping young apprentices get work ready at Illawarra companies has had its biggest intake in years.
The Trade Readiness Course gives apprentices and cadets a crash course on everything from bullying and harassment in the workplace to money management.
Offered at Wollongong TAFE it has been widely embraced by employers for the way it trains the next generation of tradies in everything including working among robotics and automation.
The course is creating a new breed of “tech-savvy” tradies, according to TAFE NSW Skills Team, Innovative Manufacturing; Robotics and Science; Supply Chain and eCommerce head Peter Buttenshaw.
Mr Buttenshaw said increasing automation of many trades has triggered a seismic shift in the way apprentices learn.
The eight week course is popular because it gives new fitting and machining, electrical and engineering apprentices and cadets valuable information about everything from machine operating to money management.
The January 7 intake saw apprentices come from a diverse range of leading companies such as BlueScope, Snowy Hydro, South32, Peabody and Simek.
BlueScope Steel’s Maintenance Improvement manager Peter O’Brien said safety was a number one priority and fundamental to the way BlueScope approaches business and apprenticeships.
“TAFE NSW has taken this on board, ensuring the apprentices we host get off on the right foot, with an emphasis on safety at all times. We’ve developed a strong relationship with TAFE NSW. As a result they have a good understanding of our requirements,” he said.
“It also means we’re not putting extra pressure on our own tradespeople to get the apprentices up to that level, they’ve already got some skills and knowledge behind them when they start.”
The is tailored specifically for heavy industry and has a strong focus on work, health and safety. It helps graduates integrate seamlessly into a new workplace.
Mr Buttenshaw said it covered machine operating, hydraulics, money management, WHS policies and procedures, safe driving, welding fabrication and electrical.
“The growing popularity shows there’s confidence in the market locally in the manufacturing and resources sectors, and a real need to ensure skills are keeping pace with technology,” he said.
“Years ago, a tradie could have a Certificate III and the rest would be on-the-job learning but now, due to technology in the workplace, employers want tradies who have a more diverse skillset, not just manual machinery skills.
“You look at mining; robotics and automation are a huge part of that and in the steel sector, a lot of product lines are run by robots. Part of the skillset of the modern tradie is to fault-find and diagnose any problems with automation”.
Mr Buttenshaw said TAFE NSW now also has pathways in place for higher-level qualifications for tradespeople, including Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas.